Feb 222010
 

Understandably, the talk du jour is Team Canada’s 5-3 loss to Team USA. The loss means that Team Canada doesn’t get the bye to the quarter final round. It means they have to go through, potentially, Germany, Russia, Sweden and the USA (again) to win Gold – not exactly the path of least resistance.

Before I play the blame game, I want to start by giving credit to the Americans. Canada had a lot of chances – like they outshot (and probably outchanced) the American by more than a 2-to-1 margin – but Ryan Miller stood on his head. Despite being younger, the Americans looked more poised. Despite being less-experienced, they executed their game plan to a ‘T’. You can tell the Americans wanted it more, the prime example being Ryan Kesler’s diving empty net goal.

Home ice advantage be damned.

But obviously, Miller was the star of the game as he made 42 saves, many of them of the great variety. Unfortunately, we can’t say the same about Marty Brodeur after allowing 4 goals on 22 shots, and the great debate this morning was whether or not Brodeur should get a shot at redemption.

Here’s our answer, according to William Houston:

Luongo starts against Germany. Canada will go with an NHL format from here on, using 12 forwards and shortening its bench early if needed. Management was not happy with Babcock failing to call a timeout late in the game.

Before the Games started, I put up this post about Team Canada’s starting goaltenders. I’ll admit I picked Marty to start because of his track record, but at the same time, I was unsure because of his recent record since being named to the team. To be fair, neither were Luongo’s and Fleury’s records, but Luongo’s was easily the best of all three.

Stats since Dec. 30Roberto LuongoMartin BrodeurMarc-Andre Fleury
Record12-5-110-11-27-5-3
GAA2.502.593.02
Save %0.9180.9060.909
SO240

If Team Canada’s round robin games proved anything, it’s that Brodeur is still struggling. And after a solid shutout against Norway (albeit with little work), Luongo deserves another opportunity to start. Marty made the most of the same opportunity in 2002 when Curtis Joseph faltered early in the tournament. Here’s hoping Louie makes the most of his oppportunity now.

Feb 222010
 

I supported picking Brodeur as the starting goalie despite enough reasons to justify Luongo being put in net, so at this point I don’t even feel slightly bad about tearing Brodeur a new one. Throw every cliche you can at the game and it’ll in all likelihood make sense. The one I like right now is “You’re only as strong as your weakest link.” Last night Team Canada played a heck of a game. They were for the most part all over the American team, but Brodeur let them down.

I thought Brodeur’s puck handling was going to be to his advantage and yesterday he proved it was to his detriment. Brodeur plays the puck like a defenseman, and when he’s on the Devils his blue line know to go out when he handles the puck, not collapse to the net. One of the key things is that the blue line doesn’t know Marty’s style of play, but that doesn’t excuse the nonsense we saw from him in net last night. I have never seen a goalie go down on so many shots, and flop around like I saw Brodeur last night. Not even Dominik Hasek has had a game where he’s flopped around in net as much as Brodeur did.

Brodeur’s puck handling was ridiculous at best and it all culminated in his baseball bat, derek-jeter-ground-out swing that cost Canada the goal. That robbed us of momentum, that basically sealed the deal. With that in mind though it was clear from the beginning. His poor decision making and puck-handling less than 30 seconds into the game cost us the game’s first goal and from there it went down hill.

With that being said everyone’s calling for Luongo. Brodeur had his chance, and I thought even against the Swiss he had a shaky game at best. I still believe Luongo knows this ice better than anyone, regardless of opponent he posted a shutout against Norway, and he looked solid. My worry is that without the trapezoid he’ll play the puck into even more awkward situations than he already does on the Canucks, but at this point anything is better than Brodeur.

Canada next plays the Germans in qualifiers. So you give Luongo the start and he wins. Guarantee this city is going to be preaching the good word according to Lu. That in itself might be the problem. Lets be honest, a half concussed, one armed Fleury could take down the winless Germans. The test comes in the game after which will be the Russians. Tuesday’s qualifier against the Germans is going to be a good indicator of how Luongo feels getting the start. Brodeur had his chance and the Germany game should be a good way to ease Luongo into this. That being said, come the quarterfinals, if Luongo’s given the start, it’s all on him to save this country’s hopes of a gold medal.

This is Luongo’s chance to prove to everyone, on the biggest stage of them all, that he can be a “big game goalie”. Don’t blow it Lu, no pressure.

Feb 212010
 

At first I was worried that the 7 Canucks participating in the 2010 Olympics were going to come back to the regular season fatigued and unrested, but now that you look at the games and the roles each player representing their country has, it looks like the Olympics are catering to their individual needs in a funny kind of way.

Luongo

The one thing Luongo needed was rest. It’s clear at this point that Brodeur is going to take the games the rest of the way and after Luongo got his chance in front of the home town crowd and put up a shutout, riding the pine is perfect. He’s going to get the two weeks rest he needs while still getting in practices and staying game ready. That’s exactly what we need if we want him to be ready for when the break’s over. If Luongo’s ready to go it saves us having to struggle through the first few games as “he finds his game”

Henrik and Daniel

Henrik and Daniel after being hotter than hot lost their groove and fell into a rut. Now back in Vancouver representing Sweden they seem to have found their cycle game again. If they can work out their kinks in this two weeks they’re going to be in the right place game-wise when the Canucks road trip resumes.

Demitra

Demitra is getting better with each game. After slowly finding his game just before the Olympic break that unfortunate situation with his mother in law proved to be an obstacle in his return. However he’s proving now that his goal and shootout winner before the Olympics are just the start of Pavol returning healthy. He’s continued his game with an assist and a massive shootout winner to help his under dog Slovaks beat a Russian team touted to be unstoppable. This games is only helping Demitra become better for his return to the Canucks lineup post Olympics.

Ehrhoff, Salo, Kesler

Ehrhoff, Salo and Kesler have been a few of the things on the Canucks that have actually been working despite an interesting start to the NHL’s longest road trip ever. The Olympics doesnt help them get their game back, but keeps them in game shape for when they return and need to try and finish this road trip above .500 in a fight for the Northwest. Kesler’s playing for the US the same way he does for the Canucks, like a man possessed. It’s a true testament to his character and game. Ehrhoff and Salo staying in game shape is the best thing we can ask for as they’re two intricate parts of a powerplay we desperately need to kickstart on the second half of this road trip.

All in all the Olympics are turning out to be just-what-the-doctor-ordered for the Canucks versus this draining tournament that was going to affect the Canucks in the long term and result in a bunch of superstars fatiguing down the stretch when it mattered most. Funny how things work out.

Feb 182010
 

Today we get to see Brodeur play for Canada against the Switzerland after Luongo got the nod for Canada versus Norway. I understand trying to see which goalie does better, and I understand giving them both some ice time, but at the end of the day I think it’s going to be Brodeur who’s going to backstop Canada the whole way.

Brodeur has the ability to play behind the net and eliminate any team’s forcheck, something Luongo lacks at best. A lot of the players on some of the more dangerous teams, in my mind, come from the East. Brodeur sees them all the time and he’s probably more likely to stop them. That being said, almost no one can stop Ovechkin. And thirdly, Brodeur comes to play in big games, and as much as I try to avoid bashing Luongo, the bottom line is he’s not a big game player. The “Luus” were great to hear at GM Place or as it’s known for the Olympics, Canada Hockey Place, but Luongo’s going to get many more turns to back stop this nation and right now Brodeur is the man of the hour.

Speaking of “Luus” I also came across this pretty wicked shirt which you can get from Pucking Hilarious. It’s a play on the Canucks logo, and I liked it! You know when the Canucks decide to do another jersey change (aren’t we due for another sometime soon?) I’ll throw my vote for this logo. They’ve got limited quantities and their order deadline is coming up soon! Check ‘em out, I know I have my shirt ordered and it’s some neat one-of-a-kind Canucks gear to add to your fan gear collection! If you want to follow them on Twitter, they’re @puckingfunny. Luuu Tshirt

Feb 162010
 

There are two ways to read into Team Canada coach Mike Babcock’s decision to start Roberto Luongo tonight against Norway and then Martin Brodeur against Switzerland on Thursday.

Babcock explained that he was giving Luongo the first start mostly because he wanted to pay him the courtesy. But perhaps more telling, Babcock said: “Marty has played a lot of hockey and this gives him a couple of days’ breather. Marty will play against Switzerland [on Thursday] and after that I will make the decision. That’s what we came up with.”

First, the Olympic tournament is such a short tournament that I don’t think Team Canada would start a player simply as a courtesy. With only 3 round robin games and a bye to the quarterfinals at stake, I would imagine Team Canada would want to get off the gates fast and field their best team right off the bat. If you subscribe to this line of thinking, then you have to think that Team Canada has tabbed Luongo as the man to lead them to Gold.

Or, we could take this decision at face-value. Maybe Team Canada brass has decided that Brodeur is its starter and they do really want to give him a few extra days rest before letting him run the table starting on Thursday.

Normally, I would have subscribed to the latter. Even as a Canucks fan, IMHO the starter job belongs to Martin Brodeur. His credentials certainly justify it. That said, none of the three Team Canada goalies have been particularly great since being named to the team on December 30th, and of the three, Luongo has posted the better record and the better stats since then.

Stats since Dec. 30Roberto LuongoMartin BrodeurMarc-Andre Fleury
Record12-5-110-11-27-5-3
GAA2.502.593.02
Save %0.9180.9060.909
SO240

When you add the fact that Luongo is 21-7-1 at home this season with a 0.928 save percentage and a 2.13 GAA, then I’m not so sure anymore.

Feb 082010
 

Don’t all our Olympians look ADORABLE? They have a slightly nerdy vibe going on like they have apples behind their backs for Steve Yzerman and promises to clean Brian Burke’s chalkboard after practice. They even split up the twins *Gasp*

Jan 142010
 

In the light l’Affaire Burrows-Auger (as it’s now being dubbed), the Canucks faced a few questions going into last night’s game against the Minnesota Wild.

1) Will l’Affaire Burrows-Auger affect the number of penalties called for or against the Canucks?
2) With 9 goals in 5 games, can Burrows move on and continue to play and produce at the same level?
3) Given what’s come out in the previous 24 hours, can Burrows still play like a pest and draw the ire – and penalties – from the opposition?

As it turns out, the short answers are: no, yes and yes.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough as they stunk up the Excel Energy Center and lost their 3rd game in a row.

The Canucks played well in the second period – their worst period all season – but were horrible in the first and third.

They played the Wild tough, but only when the game didn’t matter anymore. Darcy Hordichuk and Alex Bolduc fought Derek Booger-d and John Scott, respectively, and lost. (Though you have to give both credit for fighting a couple of weight classes higher.)

Roberto Luongo was horrible, but I suppose he was due for a bad game. He’s started the last 18 games – he’s started every game since December 8 after Andrew Raycroft started against Carolina on December 6 – and Lui’s been pretty darn good in most of them. His stats since then: an 11-5-2 record, 2.17 GAA and 0.923 save percentage. Not bad numbers, and hopefully, he returns to form when he faces Marc-Andre Fleury in the “Battle to be Brodeur’s Backup”.

Yes, this game was a stinker, but hopefully the boys can move on from Minny and bounce back against the Pens.

Jan 072010
 
Burrows celebrates 2nd consecutive hat trick

Photo credit: TSN

Earlier today, Jason Botchford (Vancouver Province) suggested the Sedin-Sedin-Burrows line was the second coming of the Westcoast Express line. Scratch that, he said that they are even better than the original.

The trio have played 57 games together going back to last winter. In those 57 games, the line has combined for 73 goals and 119 assists for 192 points. That’s 3.37 points a game and is a pace which outdistances the best line in Canucks history. At its peak in 2002-03, the West Coast Express put up 3.31 points a game.

And who can argue with him?

The Canucks just disposed of the Phoenix Coyotes 4-0 to win four games in a row for the first time this season and at least catch the Northwest Division-leading Calgary Flames in points. Henrik Sedin had 3 assists to pass Joe Thornton in the NHL scoring race, Alex Burrows recorded his second hat trick in two games, and Roberto Luongo posted his 50th career shutout.

First, the Sedins and Burrows.

When Burrows signed his 4-year/$8 million, I admit I thought it would be a solid deal even if he simply produced 15 goals and 40 points; with 17 goals and 17 assists, he’s nearly cracked that mark and the season is barely over half a season old. It goes without saying that he is proving that I’m just a Canucks fan who set expectations ridiculously low so as not to be disappointed.

To add to what Botchford said, the Sedin-Sedin-Burrows line is on fire. Combined, they have 130 points (48 goals and 82 assists) this season. Only San Jose’s (Marleau, Thornton and Heatley – 64 goals and 86 assists) and Washington’s (Ovechkin, Backstrom and Semin – 60 goals and 76 assists) trios have combined for more. When you take into account that Daniel Sedin missed 18 games due to injury, it makes what the Sedins and Burrows have accomplished so far even more impressive.

Maybe they are the second coming of the Westcoast Express, but I’m not sure I like the nickname. Contest time: Suggest a nickname for the Sedin-Sedin-Burrows line and post it in the comments field. Richard, Alix and I will each pick one we like and we’ll send each winner a copy of the Vancouver Canucks 2009-2010 yearbook.

Next, Luongo.

Tonight’s shutout was his 3rd of the season and 50th of his career. He is now tied with Chris Osgood for 2nd most career shutouts among active goaltenders. He is 56 shutouts behind Martin Brodeur’s career mark, but as you know, Luongo just signed to play for 12 more years. In Luongo’s first 3 seasons with the Canucks, he’s averaged just under 7 shutouts per season.

Just sayin’.

[update: 01/12/2010, 11:06 AM]

Our apologies for not setting a closing date for this contest, but we’ll do it now.

We’ll take entries until 9:00 PM on Wednesday, January 13th. Richard, Alix and I will make our picks then and send the Canucks Yearbooks to the winners.

On a related note, we’re working with Canucks.com on a follow-up contest that has a tie-in with this one. More details will follow on a separate post, but let me tease you guys a bit – you want to make sure to submit your best suggestions to a line nickname for Sedin, Sedin and Burrows, and the prize for the follow-up contest are signed photos from all three players.

Dec 042009
 

I was a bit surprised by Alain Vigneault’s decision to rest Roberto Luongo and name Andrew Raycroft as the starter against the Carolina Hurricanes tomorrow.

Considering Luongo’s recent history in afternoon games – last season’s injury in Pittsburgh comes to mind – perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised. In fact, it’s probably wise to sit Lui and minimize the risk of injury. Especially against what is currently the worst team in the league, it also gives Raycroft an opportunity to rebound from his last start ten games ago when he got yanked against the St. Louis Blues after only one period.

Why I’m surprised is because Lui is coming off two of his best games this season – the big win against Martin Brodeur on Wednesday night and the 38-save shutout against the Philadelphia Flyers last night. He’s on a roll right now and it’s rare you see a coach sit the guy with the hot hand. I understand why Vigneault made the decision – and to be clear, I’m not questioning him – but nevertheless, I’m still surprised by it.

On a side note, here are some stats for you folks to chew on.

After a rough start to the season, Luongo has quietly improved in several statistical categories. His season totals of 12 wins is good for 10th in the NHL, and his 2.41 GAA and 0.916 save % are closer to his career averages than the 3.88 GAA and 0.860 save % he had after the first two weeks of the season.

Lui’s been at his best since returning from injury. In the 10 games he’s played since November 10, he has a 1.97 GAA and 0.933 save % (1.90 GAA and 0.936 save % not including the St. Louis game in which Luongo entered the game in the second period). Since November 10, only Mikka Kiprusoff (1.76), Ryan Miller (1.79), Martin Brodeur (1.94) and Cristobal Huet (1.95) have a better GAA; only Kiprusoff (0.941) and Miller (0.937) have a better save %.

And when he comes back after four days off against the Nashville Predators, let’s hope his play hasn’t cooled down one bit.

Dec 012009
 

The Canucks head out on an Eastern road trip and their first stop is going to be in the Devils’ den against Martin Brodeur. A lot of people think, myself included, that that game is going to be a really good indicator of where both goalies are at, and also which is the better goalie. The debate over who is starter is starting to heat up, in part because of the Olympics nearing but also because this game is going to showcase two of the best goaltenders in the league auditioning for the starting role at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

When looking at the two goaltenders it’s hard to say who I would choose. My heart lies with Luongo, but the numbers don’t lie and unfortunately Luongo’s haunted by the fact that he isn’t able to win the big games. Case and point that painful series against Chicago. The fact that Brodeur has broken records that were at one point untouchable speaks volumes about his play. He’s the all time wins leader, he’s about to be the all time career shutout leader, and just the other night he broke the record for most minutes played by a goaltender in his career. He’s one of the most decorated goaltenders of all time accomplishing everything from Stanley Cups to Olympic Gold Medals. He’s been there before and he knows what it takes.

The question of age comes to mind next. While Luongo is 7 years younger than Brodeur, Brodeur has played in 3 Olympic games already and with the pressure on this Canadian National team to win it all, the question then becomes one of whether Luongo can handle the pressure or not. In the few big pressure games Luongo’s faced, he’s come up on the short side and the Olympic games isn’t a time to take a gut check. There’s so much more that factors into this debate, but for now let’s let the goalies do the talking and see what happens come puck drop tomorrow.

The Canucks game against the Devils is going to be an excellent indicator of where both goalies are at. You can be sure that those in charge of picking the Olympic team are going to pay close attention to the game, I for one just hope that the game doesn’t turn out to be a 0-0 affair.

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